Celebrity Guest Chef: Justin Burdett

Justin Burdett, a Georgia native, began his culinary career at a very young age in his grandmother’s kitchen who was busy raising 5 children by herself. Her southern style made it easier for Justin to begin working at One’s BBQ at the age of 15. From there he worked his way exploring and expanding his flair for farm-to-table menus. “Communities have been preparing farm-to-table meals for centuries. It’s not a style and it’s not new. For most it was out of necessity. You cook what’s local and you cook what’s in season. I’ve adopted it as a philosophy because it makes sense and it’s sustainable. My style on the other hand is what I call Modern Southern. You can be any kind of chef, Indian, French and still be driven by the philosophy of farm-to-table. It’s not a trend. It’s a purposeful way of sourcing and creating dishes.”

As a self-taught chef, he fine-tuned his presentation skills at Richmond Hill In then took Miller Union in Atlanta from a start-up restaurant to world-renowned. From there, he worked under famed chef Hugh Acheson in Athens 5 & 10 taking critical skills and creative sourcing from it. He showed off the fruits of his labor on television when he made “nose-to-tail rabbit dish” on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman, then later defeating his competitors on the Food Network’s hit show Chopped. He has been titled 2013’s Carolina Rising Star Award, Food and Wine’s “Top 10 Chefs in the Southeast” and has been invited to cook at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival and at the James Beard House in New York City. He and his wife recently moved to Highlands, North Carolina where he is the Executive Chef of Ruka’s Table.

Local Celebrity Chefs:

Dave Snyder - Halyards

Owner/executive chef Halyard Restaurant Group, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

snyderFor Dave Snyder, the past twenty eight years have been filled with culinary pursuits from New England to his beloved South. Born and raised in Michigan, his unabashed passion for cooking began in high school and college at the University of Georgia when he quickly discovered a preference for the kitchen over the classroom.  Following graduation fromthe New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, hemoved to New York City, gaining experience and sharpening his skills at The Essex House, Zoe, Union Square Café, and The Mark while serving under top chefs who prided themselves on training the next generation of chefs. Heading south, Dave became executive chef at Azalea in Atlanta beforemoving to St Simons Island, Georgia as chef at J Mac’s. In 2000, he opened Halyards on St. Simons and, in 2006, opened Tramici. These two sister operations, along with Halyards Catering, comprise Halyard Restaurant Group.  His two restaurants, perennially ranked the Island’s and region’smost popular, enable Dave to share his love of hospitality, food, and how the two intertwine to creatememorable culinary experiences, including his bi-monthly cooking classes focusing on how great food enhances life. Drawing on his relationships with local fishermen and farmers, Dave demonstrates to eager guests how the best ingredientsmake a tremendous difference in the quality of the food, the sustainability of the environment and the financial strength of the local economy. He has worked with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association to improve the sustainability and health of the South Atlantic, the availability of local fish and the financial future and heritage of the fishing industry.  Dave recently self-published a cookbook and will soon bemarketing a housemade Marinara sauce from the recipe he created for Tramici. His other projects include plans to grow olives for producing extra virgin olive oil to serve at his restaurants.  Deeply devoted to community service, Dave serves on the Board of Directors at The Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia and is an active supporter of local numerous area organizations including The St. Simons Land Trust, Cystic Fibrosis and The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia. He is also involved in events and fundraisers at local schools where he hopes to inspire the next generation of chefs and restaurant leaders.  Dave is an avid angler, spending his free time fishing the waters in and around Georgia’s Golden Isles, frequently preparing and serving his fresh catches to delighted guests at his restaurants. He also loves to venture to Islamorada in the Florida Keys–his home away from home.

Geoffrey Gable - Halyards

Chef Geoffrey Gable brings over a decade of culinary experience with a successful track record of four and five star resorts along the east coast. He has spent his distinguished career building up his reputation and expanding his knowledge in range of diverse cuisines and culinary techniques, always using fresh, locally farmed produce and the highest quality meats and seafood.

Chef Geoffrey attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia studying culinary arts and graduating Best Young Culinarian in his class. He went on to work at the highly prestigious Pine Valley Golf Club then heading back to Philadelphia to work with the Ritz Carlton. While at the Ritz Carlton, Chef Geoffrey’s love for food really took hold. After two years in Philadelphia he continued with the Ritz Carlton and moved to Orlando, Florida to be on the opening team of the Grand Lakes Resort. After staying at Grand Lakes for 3 years, he moved on to the five-star, five diamond coastal resort, the Cloister on Sea Island, Georgia. There he coordinated and creatively presented all wedding and catering events and was extensively involved in the exclusive dinners in the Cloister’s Wine Cellar. After moving into the Executive Chef position at deep blu seafood grille in Orlando, Florida, he was voted “Best Chef” by Orlando Magazine in 2014 before moving him back to the Golden Isles to be closer to family. Currently he is gracing the kitchens of Halyards Restaurant, one of St. Simons Island’s most highly acclaimed local restaurants.

Griffin Buffkin and Harrison Sapp - Southern Soul BBQ

griffin and harrison head shotGriffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp, Pitmaster and Proprietor of Southern Soul BBQ and both co-founders of the Saint Simons Food and Spirits Festival.

Harrison serves as proprietor and pitmaster at St. Simons Island establishment Southern Soul Barbeque, which serves award-winning barbecue to locals and visitors from across the country. Harrison Sapp was born in Macon, Ga. and raised in Brunswick, Ga. After a series of local jobs in St. Simons and a brief resort stint in Hawaii, Sapp returned to St. Simons Island, where he began his climb the local restaurant industry ladder. Harrison quickly progressed from bus boy to bartender, then to chef and eventually manager of a slew of local restaurants. Sapp’s driving motivation in life is to make people happy through outstanding dining experiences, with particular focus on exceptional barbecue. In 2007, after a series of hugely successful barbecue pop-up dinners, Sapp and co-owner Griffin Bufkin opened Southern Soul Barbeque in a renovated gas station at the historic crossroads of St. Simons Island. As pitmaster, Harrison Sapp has led Southern Soul to acclaim from outlets such as Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Huffington Post and more.

John Belechak - Palmer's Village Cafe

jbInspired by the culinary field for thirty years, Chef John Belechak has worked in many restaurant venues: country clubs, independent restaurants and high profile resorts. John studied under Chefs Bob Kinkaid and Ris La Coste at 21 Federal in Washington DC. Also during his time in DC, he worked with Restaurant Associates at The Roof Top Terrace in the Kennedy Center. Moving to Virginia Beach, VA, he became a sous chef at the Cavalier Country Club. A few years later when he moved to Atlanta, GA, he worked under Chefs Jamie Adams and John Carver for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group at Veni Vidi Vici and Pricci’s. His transition to working at resorts includes spending 7 years at the prestigious and world renown Inn at Blackberry Farm, TN. During John’s tenure at Blackberry Farm he worked with Chef John Fleer. John started as sous chef and earned the rank of chef de cuisine. During his time at Blackberry Farm, the Inn earned five-star/five diamond accolades and consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top small hotels with three invitations to be featured in the James Beard House Foundation. Returning to Georgia, Chef John was part of the opening staff of The Lodge at Sea Island as a Sous Chef. During this time, the Lodge earned and received five-star/five-diamond recognition. John moved within the Sea Island Company and became garde manger chef for The Cloister and Sea Island Beach Club. Along with the garde manger chef position came the supervision of the butcher shop department and saucier department for the resort plus logistics of daily deliveries. Chef John Belechak was part of the culinary team for the G-8 International Summit in 2004. In 2011, Chef Belechak embraced the opportunity to open Palmer’s Village Café as Chef and General Manager. Palmer’s Village Café is located on St. Simons Island, GA. The menu at Palmer's, features seasonal foods and products, while walking the line between comfort food and haute cuisine.